22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

When Less is More

31 July, 2016 Luke 12:13-21 Pentecost 11 By Rev Dr Christopher Page

This life is for loving, sharing, learning, smiling, caring, forgiving, laughing, hugging, helping, dancing, wondering, healing, and even more loving. I choose to live life this way… ~Steve Maraboli,

 

Introduction

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, Richard Layard of the London School of Economics and John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia have been putting out reports on the happiest countries in the world since 2012. They are intended to remind governments that success is about more than economic growth and other such statistics. Sure, people are happier when they're richer and healthier, as they tend to be in more developed countries, but there are other contributors to perceptions of well-being. That's what the reports measure: people in various countries are asked how they perceive various aspects of their lives.

Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark and Norway are the world's happiest countries, according to the 2015 World Happiness Report. What are they doing right and what is the rest of the world doing wrong?

The report's authors say six variables account for three-quarters of the differences in happiness levels among countries:

  • Gross domestic product per capita,
  • Social support,
  • Healthy life expectancy,
  • Freedom to make life choices,
  • Generosity,
  • Freedom from corruption. 1

But ask a different question and you get a different answer. Interestingly, the Morgan Gallup poll puts Fiji and Bhutan at the top of 65 countries, with Finland some way behind. So it is not just all about wealth and money. Issues of family and community cohesion can be more important.

The Brothers’ Inheritance
Perhaps that’s where the story in the gospel begins:

Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?" And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

I have mentioned before that stories and parables in the New Testament can be either descriptive or prescriptive. That is, they are describing a particular situation which may be unique to the context, and often we don’t have a lot of information about the scenario. Or they are prescriptive: “This is how you should live.”

The squabble between the brothers is descriptive. One could be right and the other could be wrong. But the prescriptive comment comes in the response by Jesus, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.”

I suppose there is only one antidote to greed, and that is generosity. And it is not just a financial generosity, it is a generosity of spirit. What often typifies nations with a high sense of well-being is generosity toward fellow citizens. A willingness to share personal wealth, time and talents with others, including strangers.

Jesus Answers with a Parable
I find it intriguing that seldom does Jesus give a didactic, moralistic answer to a question. Nor is he drawn into the personal conflicts that are raised with him. So often he answers with a parable. And parables don’t always give definitive answers. They require the reader, or in the first case the listener, to wander around in the parable and I would say ‘find themselves’.

Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’"

At first measure there is little relationship between the question asked by the brothers and the parable Jesus tells. But that may be because his emphasis has shifted from the person to the collective. And the focus of his attention is now on the propensity for human beings to be greedy – to place their own needs before the needs of others. Why are we greedy? Roger Griffin, writing in the New International Magazine, asks the question:

Wanting enough to keep body and soul together, perhaps a few luxuries, is fair enough. But why do we want more and more, and admire those who have the most? 2

Griffin goes on to quote the social psychologist Erich Fromm, who observed that greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need, without ever reaching satisfaction…

As long as the rich and famous are the focus of so much envy, adulation and fantasy, it is difficult to see how the pathology of acquisition can be stopped. 3

The value of a treasure hoard
Once upon a time, in China, there was a priest who was both avaricious and rich. He loved jewels, which he collected, constantly adding more pieces to his wonderful hoard, which he kept securely locked away, hidden from any eyes but his own.

Now the priest had a friend who visited him one day and who expressed interest in seeing the gems. ‘I would be delighted to take them out so that I, too, could look at them,’ said the priest.

So the collection was brought and the two feasted their eyes on the beautiful treasure for a long time, lost in admiration.

When the time came for him to leave, the priest’s guest said: ‘Thank you for giving me the treasure!’

‘Do not thank me for something which you have not got’, said the priest, ‘For I have not given you the jewels, and they are not yours at all.’

His friend answered: ‘As you know, I have had as much pleasure from looking at the treasures as you, so there is no difference between us, as you yourself only look at them - except that you have the trouble and expense of finding, buying, and looking after them.’

I am not sure who said it, I thought it was Charles Dickens, “Happiness is related to your capacity to lower your expectations.” That may not fit the Calvinistic work ethic very well, but it does seem to be borne out where we see those who are content with the true values in life. Because we know in our hearts that all we have of a material nature can be destroyed in this life or left behind as we leave it.

I remember Barbara Blackman getting on to the stage and giving a million dollars to the Australian Chamber Orchestra. She said, “Well, they were going to get it in my will, so why shouldn’t I have the pleasure of giving it away now?”

And God said, ‘Why be so foolish? This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.

 

_____________________________

1  https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2015-04-24/why-north-europeans-are-the-happiest-people

2  https://newint.org/features/1984/07/05/greedy/

3  Ibid

 

Keep up to date with the latest Toorak Uniting news